Law of the press

ExpertisesLaw of the press


Specialized in press law, Delphine MEILLET offer to put her expertise at your service, whether you are author or victim, in order fo you to win your case.

In France, press law and, more generally, all public expression, is determined by the law of July 29th, 1881. This law contains several crimes related to the abuse of the freedom of speech, the two most common being slander and defamation.

The one that is the most dealt with in courthouses is without a doubt defamation, which is defined as the allegation of a fact that tarnished the honor or consideration of the person or body targeted by said allegation.

When accused of defamation, two solutions are possible in order to not be convicted: prove that the alleged facts are true, or prove that the allegations were made in good faith. However, since the proof of such facts can be tricky, most cases are argued through good faith.

In order to prove their good faith, the author of defamatory words must satisfy several cumulative conditions:

  • Prove that he led a serious investigation, meaning that he gathered a sufficient amount of evidence before making the claim
  • They must have use caution in expressing the allegation, which can be observed for example through the use of the conditional
  • There must be an absence of previous animosity between the author and the victim
  • The author must prove that their aim was to inform the public, and not to harm the victim

Slander, however, doesn’t require a specific fact to be targeted. The law defines slander as any outrageous expression, terms of disdain or contempt, which contain no imputation of a fact. For example, judges have considered in the past that the term “Poulet” (“cop”) to designate police officer was not constitutive of slander.

There is also an exception in order to not be convicted of slander: the excuse of provocation, through which the author of slander can prove that he emotionally reacted to a provocation. Only the judges can choose if a situation falls under the excuse of provocation or not.

Finally, all supports can fall under the laws regarding defamation and slander: a mere tweet or Facebook comment can expose you to criminal sanctions.